The curious brain impalement of Phineas Gage
These computer-generated models show how the rod went through in Gage's skull.
May 16th, 2012
05:05 PM ET

The curious brain impalement of Phineas Gage

If you survived a 43-inch-long iron rod shot through your skull, people would still be talking about you more than 150 years later too.

Journey back a moment to September 13, 1848. Phineas Gage, 25, was working as a railroad construction supervisor in Vermont. In preparation for the Rutland and Burlington Railroad that was to be laid down, he was blasting and removing rock. But an explosion went awry, shooting a 13-pound iron rod through Gage's left cheek, passing behind his left eyeball and through his brain.

The fateful rod was found later "smeared with blood and brains," according to reports about the case.

Gage survived for almost 12 years after this accident, but people who knew him said he was no longer himself - he exhibited personality and behavior changes.

He couldn't come back to his railroad job, so he took up some manual labor jobs. He ended up traveling in New England and down to Valparaiso, Chile; his iron rod never left his side. He rejoined his family in San Francisco and died on May 21, 1860, probably because of seizures connected to the freak accident.

Now, scientists have new insights into Gage's brain.

A new study in the journal PLoS ONE examines the damage to the connections between the networks in Gage's brain, finding that this probably contributed to Gage's documented behavioral changes.

Researchers compared information about Gage's skull to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brains of 110 right-handed men between ages 25 to 36, the age range at which Gage lived with his injury. In this way, they simulated the trek of the rod through Gage's skull and assessed damage to cortical gray matter (found in memory regions among others) and white matter (which has been implicated in learning and cognition).

"If the rod had penetrated his brain at any other angle, even slightly different than the trajectory that it took, it might have pierced some major cerebrovasculature, and taken his life," said the study's lead author Jack Van Horn, assistant professor in the department of neurology at UCLA School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

Researchers concluded that while the rod intersected with about 4% of the cortex, the accident damaged 11% of white matter. That means that the damage wasn't localized to the part of the brain the rod traversed and the gray matter within. Instead, the connectivity between many important regions of the brain broke down.

The patterns of damage they found is not much different from what's seen in Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia and traumatic brain injuries.

Mapping strategies like this would be important for measuring the degree of damage that people with traumatic brain injuries experience, Van Horn said. They reveal the effect of the damage on the network connectivity of the brain and the properties of the networks. This could have implications for assessment, monitoring and treatment opportunities for patients.

Over 1 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury every year in the United States, but perhaps no one is as historically famous for surviving one as Gage.

"Hopefully this kind of thing helps us to understand a little more about what he went through, about what his brain injury meant, and how, by understanding that, it might be helpful for modern day traumatic brain injury and degenerative disease patients," Van Horn said.

Gage's skull is currently on display at the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard University.

soundoff (898 Responses)
  1. Z-Man

    Talk about having your mind blown...

    May 16, 2012 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. SPW

    I love articles like these, very interesting stuff.

    May 16, 2012 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • elandau

      -ERL, CNN

      May 16, 2012 at 17:45 | Report abuse |
    • Mike


      Maybe mention fronal lobe syndrome? The most important discovery here...

      May 16, 2012 at 22:47 | Report abuse |
    • Ret

      I like pineapples

      May 17, 2012 at 01:07 | Report abuse |
  3. rbreban

    people really don't have anything to do......Whats the purpose of this crap

    May 16, 2012 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 4nerRepubCT

      Perhaps you could read the article to see how this might help inform the medical community regarding current need.

      May 16, 2012 at 18:04 | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      I really hate people that complain about articles and being irrelevant and more important things going on in the world. Get a life and stop reding the articles if you don't care about them..... and more importantly STOP commenting on them, lol.

      May 16, 2012 at 18:25 | Report abuse |
    • MIke

      How about . . . it's an article that's not about a politician, a celebrity, a tragic accident, a crime, pure fluff, or any of the usual fare. Perhaps you would like to peruse a different blog more focused on things less intellectually interesting?

      May 16, 2012 at 18:33 | Report abuse |
    • Osama

      troll: a person who makes a comment just to get angry responses

      May 16, 2012 at 19:07 | Report abuse |
    • jweller

      Don't feed the trolls!

      May 16, 2012 at 19:22 | Report abuse |
    • Schmedley

      I agree, your comment is total crap. You mustn't have anything to do.

      May 16, 2012 at 19:22 | Report abuse |
    • Seksi Vitez

      Seriously? You have to be trolling. Not that many people who can actually type can be that stupid.

      May 16, 2012 at 19:27 | Report abuse |
    • JT

      It's about medical science you moron. You probably spent all your time worrying about senseless things like sports & entertainment, great contributors of world advancement .

      May 16, 2012 at 19:42 | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Are you kidding me? The purpose of this "crap" is to help us understand the human anatomy of the brain. After suffering from these injuries and still be alive! They were able to observe his change in behavior, motor skills, and many others. This one case helped scientists discover which portion of the brain is responsible for social behavior for gods sake!!!! This is among one of the most important scientific wonders we have ever seen, so please, learn more before you make yourself look so dumb, I also have to comment on another ignorant persons comment, because it was just so blatantly uneducated. email is brotha_nick22@yahoo.com

      May 16, 2012 at 20:04 | Report abuse |
    • Slaveworld

      It helps to not only read the article but to also understand the context. If it takes you a couple of times to comprehend it, then that is better than short-sightedness. Slow your hyper-active brain down and make yourself read and understand the article. It might give you a slight head-ache but in the end, you will be smarter for it.

      May 16, 2012 at 20:18 | Report abuse |
    • ReewTawk

      Fed troll is fed. good job noobs

      May 16, 2012 at 20:32 | Report abuse |
    • Number4

      Apparently you have nothing to do. You read and posted a comment on an article you aren't even interested in.

      May 16, 2012 at 21:36 | Report abuse |
    • Aeromechanic

      I agree with you rbreban. I read the article and while I understand it, I don't get it. The implications of this one accident are one in a million. IOWs, the likelyhood of another male in that age group having his skull and brain impaled at exactly the same angle by a piece of metal the exact same size is almost zero.

      There is no real world application or use for this information.

      May 16, 2012 at 22:02 | Report abuse |
    • JM

      Says the guy who took the time to comment on the article he thought was a waste of time. Never hurts to educate yourself – be careful, you might learn something by accident.

      May 16, 2012 at 22:19 | Report abuse |
    • kerfluffle

      One in a million, when there are billions on the planet, is hardly zero in terms of odds.

      Studies such as these reveal significant findings in terms of how the human brain functions.

      And I find them fascinating.

      Perhaps there is another article about Britney out there that is more your speed.

      May 16, 2012 at 22:52 | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Please go away, you're far too stupid to comment here.

      May 17, 2012 at 00:03 | Report abuse |
    • jkflipflop

      Can't tell if troll or mentally disabled.

      May 17, 2012 at 03:26 | Report abuse |
    • Herby Sagues

      Learn about the brain, science and how the universe work.
      I guess you are the kind of person that think it is more important to learn what the latest made-up celebrity is going to be wearing for the next party. The kind of people that adds zero value to the universe.

      May 17, 2012 at 04:10 | Report abuse |
  4. rbreban

    people dont have anything to do.whats the purpose of this crap

    May 16, 2012 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ThePreacherTheTeacher

      Even as a troll, you are an irredeemable cretin.

      May 16, 2012 at 21:41 | Report abuse |
    • Bazoing

      We pardon you; do not attempt to extract the rod yourself.

      May 16, 2012 at 22:19 | Report abuse |
    • cja

      We can forgive "rbreban". Like Mr, Gage he is missing much of his brain. The poor guy seems to be able to only say one thing over and over.

      May 17, 2012 at 00:19 | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      Reading all the way to the second to last paragraph too difficult? The purpose is to find ways to treat patients with brain injuries and certain diseases.

      May 17, 2012 at 03:55 | Report abuse |
  5. Bob

    So after years of study (and how much $$), these scientists reached the conclusion that having his brain pierced by a 43-foot-long, 13-pound iron rod "probably contributed" to Gage's behavioral changes – YA THINK???

    May 16, 2012 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WRMartin

      With any luck, the scientists would remember the difference between inches and feet, unlike some morons.

      May 16, 2012 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • Joseph the Luddite

      Yeah, I, too, am sick of these idiotic, greedy scientists; after all, with thousands of Iraq/Afghan war vets having suffered traumatic brain injuries, what possible use could research have? The white-coat brainiacs need to stick to patriotic, meaningful research (like Viagra and petrochemicals).

      May 16, 2012 at 18:06 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      WRMartin – with any luck, you would be involved in a similar incident so the scientists could study you.

      May 16, 2012 at 18:16 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Joseph the Luddite – dimwit – I didnt say that it the research had no use. If you tried actually reading my comment before replying, you would notice that I just took issue with the braindead way the results of their research was formulated.

      May 16, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse |
    • A.N.Perspective

      " I just took issue with the braindead way the results of their research was formulated."

      Seriously Bob? You REALLY thought that was the totality the study's results? You don"t think it's more likely that in the course of a short news article the results were distilled into a basic, readily understandable conclusion?

      May 16, 2012 at 18:32 | Report abuse |
    • MIke

      While it's intuitively obvious that a traumatic brain injury would lead to behavioral changes, the specific structural damage that caused the changes is of interest. Considering the understanding of brain activity when the incident happened was considerably behind what it is now, the incident is still worth study.

      Though I might recommend not wishing such traumatic injury on others. It's neither productive, or useful.

      May 16, 2012 at 18:37 | Report abuse |
    • Joseph the Luddite

      Ouch, Bob, your scintillating reply has cut me to the quick...I bow to your brilliant intellectual discourse. (Name-calling being the epitome of intelligent discourse.)

      May 16, 2012 at 18:50 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Joseph the Luddite – trying to sound smart and being smart are two totally different things...

      May 16, 2012 at 19:09 | Report abuse |
    • Yossarian

      Bob exemplifies his own comment. He pretends to be smart but clearly isn't.

      May 16, 2012 at 19:53 | Report abuse |
    • Slaveworld

      Frontwards or Backwards It's BOB. B O B that spells BOB

      May 16, 2012 at 20:17 | Report abuse |
    • kerfluffle

      K++ for the Private Idaho reference!

      May 16, 2012 at 22:56 | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Bob, go away, you're an imbecile. Everyone here knows that. Get lost now.

      May 17, 2012 at 00:05 | Report abuse |
    • cja

      It is a good case to study. We have the actual skull and we have good descriptions of him both before and after the injury. You can't learn this kind of stuff except to look at accident cases like this

      May 17, 2012 at 00:22 | Report abuse |
    • Herby Sagues

      Well, a better way to study this sort of fenomena would be to take a healthy brain and pierce it with a huge metal rod. I guess we could find someone to "volunteer" his brain. But don't worry, you do not qualify.

      May 17, 2012 at 04:17 | Report abuse |
  6. Phattee

    Wow those graphics are awesome.

    May 16, 2012 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mike

    Case studies in brain damage underscore the important concept of materialism: We are our brains. We are not souls or consciousnesses that dwell in our brains. We are our brains. Our consciousness *is* the action and arises from the physical structure of our brains. There are thousands of case studies into brain damage altering personality.

    May 16, 2012 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Imbecile

      Many people say that the human brain is the greatest evolutionary organ in earth's history–but then, it's the human brain making that claim, so....

      May 16, 2012 at 18:22 | Report abuse |
    • Prediction

      It will take a lot of time to bring increased intelligence to bear.

      May 16, 2012 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • cja

      No. Better way to say it is "We are the action or brain performs".

      May 17, 2012 at 01:28 | Report abuse |
  8. Elizabeth

    I wish more information had been posted with this article.
    Did Gage lose the use of his left eye?
    How greatly did his behavior change? What symptoms did he have?
    More information on how his brain was not functioning right in comparison to other types of traumatic brain injuries?
    Maybe a link to his original case file??

    May 16, 2012 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cando

      One could spedulate that he avoided magnets and never had a problem with anemia the rest of his life.

      May 16, 2012 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • Yossarian

      Gage's left eye was indeed blinded. I believe the metal rod damaged the eyeball itself on its way up.

      Some photos of Gage were recently discovered; you can see them at the beginning and toward the end of the Phineas Gage article on Wikipedia. His left eye is closed in both pictures.

      May 16, 2012 at 19:58 | Report abuse |
    • Johnny T

      Elizabeth, they left out the most interesting thing about Phineas Gage. He's how scientists found out the brain DID SOMETHING! I'm in medical school and we discussed his case as a side-story for anatomy. Until his accident, scientists didn't think the human brain did anything! And the fact that he survived a rod through the front of it did nothing to support those who thought the brain was a critical organ (including Gage's own doctor). But then came the behavioral changes. They were generally described as a loss of tact and manners. He became a jerk, when he wasn't beforehand. His doctor tried to cover up those behavior changes, but when it came out – it was a significant contribution to the theory that the brain controls behavior, thought and action – among other things.

      May 16, 2012 at 22:15 | Report abuse |
    • Bazoing

      Sometimes I think CNN is down to one high school intern writing this stuff. It is always incomplete and never corrected.

      May 16, 2012 at 22:23 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Lots of stuff missing from this piece. How about the discovery of the importance of the frontal lobes from this case...

      May 16, 2012 at 22:45 | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Why don't you try looking up the answers on the very device you just made your comment with?

      May 17, 2012 at 00:06 | Report abuse |
    • cja

      You can Google his name. LOTS is known about him. Basically after his injury he became rather mean, ornery and not many people liked him. The joke of course is that "I'd be that way too if I had a spike in my head". But really the change comes when he was not able to predict what others would do or how they would feel about what you do. That bit of thinking ability was gone.

      I wonder why he did not die of an infection. No antibiotics back then. Maybe the explosion sterilized the rod?

      May 17, 2012 at 01:37 | Report abuse |
  9. Hunter

    Elizabeth; I bet if you Google his name, you could find all kinds of answers to your questions.

    May 16, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. MandoZink

    About 18 or more years ago, a worker at a new parking garage construction site in Louisville, KY tumbled head first several stories onto a 12ft vertical rebar. It went through his jaw, out his chin, back into his neck, through his entire torso, and out his groin. He was alive and upside down. They cut off the rebar and took him, with the rebar intact, to a local hospital where they managed to remove the rebar. It had missed every vital organ. He recovered from the ordeal.

    May 16, 2012 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • db_cooper

      name? url? citation? ...speaking tour dates??

      May 16, 2012 at 19:38 | Report abuse |
  11. Napa

    Very cool article. To those commenting of how much of a waste this information is; knowing the relationship between human behavior and different areas of the brain can help diagnose patients and further treat them when those areas are damaged. Only scientists have the mental capacity to come up with such conclusions by 'connecting the dots'.

    May 16, 2012 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • db_cooper

      ...and how did these brilliant scientists get this great mental capacity, hmmmmm? they didn't give it to themselves, now, did they? ...and if your brain stem is at this very moment convulsing with the stem-jerk reaction of something immeasurably clever along the lines of... " ...' twas evolution that did it, sir! " ...then I would like you to follow up with a scientific explanation of ... HOW. darwinianism is the princess of pseudo-sciences... when it's convenient, inconsistencies are "explained away" with "oh it takes billions and billions of years"... and when it's likewise convenient, the term "evolution" is used intra-generationally, short-term, as in... "he has evolved". Really? how does someone evolve? I thought that species evolved... but never mind that there is no SCIENTIFIC evidence for it. We all know it's true because there couldn't possibly be an intelligent being behind it all, because... well, because that would just be so absurd, wouldn't it. Almost as absurd as "oh just give them billions and billions of years, and monkeys will become men". Amazing how real scientists bend over backwards to completely abandon their ethos in order avoid thinking about the much more rational explanation for the world and the universe, right there in front of them. It would be sad if it weren't so lame and pathetic. Darwin didn't even have access to an electron microscope. He thought cells were the most basic, irreducible biological structure. Evolution? Neo-darwinism? Speculation, yes... faith, probably... but Sorry... definitely NOT science.

      May 16, 2012 at 19:35 | Report abuse |
    • Yossarian

      Are you trying to tell me that creationists don't explain things away, db_cooper? I realize it's embarrassing for you to admit that you don't know what you're talking about, but that admission is long overdue.

      May 16, 2012 at 20:00 | Report abuse |
    • db_cooper

      ohhhh, poor Yossarian... did I flick your light-sensitive spot that millions of years later became one of your eyes, or otherwise strike some kind of nerve? Please re-read your post and notice that you did not write anything of substance... at ALL. Your mention of Creationism reveals your ignorance... and your ignorance reveals your arrogance. You haven't even TRIED to read about Intelligent Design Theory, have you. Instead of just ad homineming your way through your post, with no actual response to what I wrote, why don't you try educating yourself? Begin with Darwin's Black Box, by Michael Behe, who is a REAL scientist, doing and teaching real science. In it you will learn about Irreducible Complexity. Once you have educated yourself on the subject a little bit, you might realize that I am not a Creationist, and your straw man makes you look foolish. Come back after you open your mind enough to actually study what "the other side" has to say, SCIENTIFICALLY, and then come to the big table to post with the adults.

      May 16, 2012 at 22:47 | Report abuse |
    • Tim Rigney

      So off-topic it's unbelievable. I'd say it's beyond inappropriate and into the region of trolling. This guy's just trying to pick a fight; he would have found some other article with a completely unrelated topic to do it in if this one wasn't here.

      May 16, 2012 at 22:58 | Report abuse |
    • jkflipflop

      Then why do humans have tailbones yet no tail? Why do we have organs in our bodies for which we have no use? Why does every single mammalian species on the planet share the same basic setup?

      May 17, 2012 at 03:33 | Report abuse |
  12. sean_hunter

    did you f c k my wife?

    May 16, 2012 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • .

      Yes, sir. I did. Delectable little crumpet she was at that!

      May 16, 2012 at 18:49 | Report abuse |
  13. larry

    Mr. Gage is infamous in the neuro medical field among medical students. His injury was key to the understanding of the frontal cortex and its effect on personality and emotions in the early days. This later led the way to the use of lobotomies to treat psychosis which was later deemed inhumane. There are quite a few good articles on Mr. Gage...Google it and read up!

    May 16, 2012 at 18:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. weather

    This is hardly new. The only thing of any interest was the white matter part. We know the accident contributed to his behavior – it's partially why we know the frontal lobe controls your behavior. So... not seeing what's so "new" here.

    May 16, 2012 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lone

      Because it involves new methods of study and mapping, as stated? Granted the brain is, if only broadly, mapped and we know which portion handles what function. That doesn't mean that new things (which they are not going to go into in all that much detail for a general interest article) cannot be learned in extreme cases, new or old.

      May 16, 2012 at 21:01 | Report abuse |
    • Tim Rigney

      If you're looking for specifics, I think maybe you answered the question yourself – the implication that the white matter damage was involved in his changed behavior. The white matter isn't really directly related (in the way the article implies) to "learning and cognition" – the white matter is the nerve tracts – from knowing the connections specific regions of the brain were damaged, they can infer how those regions work together in generating behavior. Kinda like taking specific wires out of a car engine to infer why they're there. Or maybe a "more-current" analogy would be slicing certain connections in a circuit board to see which microprocessors are affected and why.

      May 16, 2012 at 23:03 | Report abuse |
    • Tim Rigney

      There should probably be a "between" in there somewhere. 😉

      May 16, 2012 at 23:04 | Report abuse |
    • Tim Rigney

      Just to be thorough I should mention that the white matter is also composed of glial cells, which are used for support, maintenance and protection of the neurones.

      May 16, 2012 at 23:10 | Report abuse |
  15. Prediction

    I found some of the comments interesting.

    May 16, 2012 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. .

    Before he died, Phineas joined the Democratic Party and voted as an abject liberal; thus, the term "liberal idiot", which is basically akin to having a 13 pound shiv imbedded in your brain.

    True story.

    May 16, 2012 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Phil

      I am sure that some idiots are liberal as well as other persuasions. So have no fear, you are not alone.

      May 16, 2012 at 19:21 | Report abuse |
    • Yossarian

      This is an article about science, not politics. Please keep your poor attempts at political humor where they belong. Specifically, they belong nowhere.

      May 16, 2012 at 20:02 | Report abuse |
    • Loki

      you have the story wrong–he was a dem before the accident–a repub after

      May 16, 2012 at 21:30 | Report abuse |
    • JLS639

      The Democratic party in the mid-19th century was not liberal. They were states' rights and conservative (conservative at that time meant anti-industrial). Look up this little incident in American history called the Civil War which pitted states' rights agrarian slave states against Federalist, industrial liberal free states if you don't believe me.

      May 17, 2012 at 01:08 | Report abuse |
  17. rob

    I learned about this in college psych class, very interesting case that stuck with me all these years! Haha! It was frontal cortex damage that caused the behavioral change. Great story, thank you.

    May 16, 2012 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. fbtmof

    This is not new news........as I neuro major it was interesting to learn about this the first time I heard about it.....but 3 years later of hearing about it in just about every class can get pretty annoying.

    May 16, 2012 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. db_cooper

    success story... the guy got into harvard at the end of it all.

    May 16, 2012 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. JT

    I remember this story in my Psychology class back in high school, 1982 Surprise to see it again after so many years.
    The story intrigue me more now than when I was just a kid.

    May 16, 2012 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Simeon Namore

    Back in 1999 I was working at the Harvard Medical Library and they had jsut renovated the place–I may have been one of their first patrons. In any event the Crimson (Harvard's newspaper) showed up to do a piece on the library and library staff got out Mr Gage's skull (I think) as well as the rod for the first time in many years. The steel rod is a formidable object. It appears to be made of high-carbon steel and is turned, not cast. It is perhaps 1.5 inches in diameter on one end and is drawn out to a point on the other. There were dozens of attending surgeons, apparently, and all their names are engraved on the rod. It is very heavy.

    May 16, 2012 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yossarian

      Look up Phineas Gage on Wikipedia and you will find pictures of both Gage and the metal rod.

      May 16, 2012 at 20:03 | Report abuse |
  22. blaqb0x

    If this blows your mind, you should check out ramachandran's studies on brain damaged patients and their psychological changes.

    May 16, 2012 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. blaqb0x

    Secrets of the Mind

    May 16, 2012 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Slaveworld

    @rbreban – It helps to not only read the article but to also understand the context. If it takes you a couple of times to comprehend it, then that is better than short-sightedness. Slow your hyper-active brain down and make yourself read and understand the article. It might give you a slight head-ache but in the end, you will be smarter for it.

    May 16, 2012 at 20:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Rob

    Impressive living 12 years with an Iron rod in your head.

    May 16, 2012 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yossarian

      Not quite.

      Gage's impressive feat was living 12 years after an iron rod went through his head. It didn't stay in his skull.

      May 16, 2012 at 20:48 | Report abuse |
  26. sirrahad

    It's actually interesting and refreshing–to me, anyway–to read an article of this nature rather than the usual crap du jour about John Edwards, Lady Gaga, Lindsay Lohan, etc.

    May 16, 2012 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Loki

      of cpurse the all had something in common–major brain damage

      May 16, 2012 at 21:26 | Report abuse |
  27. bad2worse

    He was never the same after that? No shiiitttt!

    May 16, 2012 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Wildheart

    This reminds me of a Vlogbrothers video. Search 'Phineas Gage: A Song' in youtube. I am pretty sure you will rock out.

    May 16, 2012 at 20:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Bob

    A few years ago I was doing a masters thesis on brain function and behavior. My professor claimed that deficits in myelin, especially with regard to MS, could not effect behavior. Wrong. Most of you won't know what I am getting at – the bottom line is we have a long way to go in educating even professors when it comes to brain science.

    May 16, 2012 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Will

    Neuroanatomy/Neurosurgery was revolutionized by the accident to Phineas. Through evolution, the upper species have developed the neocortex, but the frontal lobe adds the "Me" component to things and removes the human element such as how to properly act in society, which explains Phineas's state after the accident. Reconstructing these images helps scientists and neurologists understand what areas of the brain control what functions which is why studying this area is so important. It will help us give ideas about strokes (the effect of an Anterior Cerebral Artery infarct) and surgical techniques that involve the prefrontal cortex. To get a visual idea of other types of neurological issues one can simply youtube Brocas/Wernickes Aphasia or bilateral hippocampus lesions (where one can not form new memories).

    May 16, 2012 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Becca-Ray

    Dying to know: How was the rod removed from his skull??

    May 16, 2012 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Loki

      yes it was

      May 16, 2012 at 21:24 | Report abuse |
    • iminim

      I think it was blasted all the way through at the time of the accident.

      May 16, 2012 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
    • larry

      The rod actually blew through his scull and landed quite a distance away. He was reportedly up and walking about just minutes after the incident.

      May 16, 2012 at 21:54 | Report abuse |
  32. Loki

    after the accident he was a Republican–someone had to bring politics into this story–peace, love and speed

    May 16, 2012 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike in SA

      Actually, he was a Democrat, since he only had half a brain...

      See, two can tango.

      May 16, 2012 at 21:44 | Report abuse |
    • db_cooper

      3 is more fun... i second Mike.

      May 16, 2012 at 22:37 | Report abuse |
  33. iminim

    Phineas Gage's story continues to be fascinating even after so many years. Photos showing him with the HUGE spike that went through his head are truly shocking. I am glad that some good can come from his tragedy, even >160yrs later. Thanks for the report.

    May 16, 2012 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. HenryMiller

    "...they simulated the trek of the rod through Gage's skull..."

    The "trek" of the rod? I hope English isn't Ms Landau's native language–that's the only possible excuse for that mistake.

    May 16, 2012 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tim Rigney

      It's actually 100% correct. Just unusual. Don't believe everything they taught you in High School English – Hate to break it to 'ya but often they were Just Plain Wrong. 😉

      May 16, 2012 at 22:52 | Report abuse |
  35. ZombieLunchWhere

    Some of these peeps could take a rod,a chain,and several spiked iron balls and not even know it, missing their tiny little pea brains all together, And if I were a cunning and vicious zombie in a heavily populated area I would most likely starve. It may be that I'm confusing brain mass with actual intelligence, We all know that isn't always the case as some very large brains belonged to the mentally disabled. I guess the real cause of this post is why some brains just function so much better than others and why that group is without speculation a slim minority of a very large group. Study that and let every know. Personal attacks can sometimes have beneficial secondary effects.

    May 16, 2012 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. wat

    The funny part is that none of the first-hand accounts mention behavioral changes to the degree that is often reported in literature. I am highly skeptical of any piece of literature that mentions "Phineas Gage." We know almost nothing about the man or his behavior. Only his post-accident physiology, and the fact that he had convulsions in the months leading up to his death.

    May 16, 2012 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Bazoing

    Notice that back then he had to continue as a laborer after this horrible crippling accident on the job. This lack of any financial safety net is what the average Congress man wants for us each and all. 90% of them are born very rich and such 'representatives' cannot conceive how it is to start out without a backing of a few tens of millions.

    May 16, 2012 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Tim Rigney

    White matter is nerve tracts, grey matter is the neurones. "That's High School." 😉

    May 16, 2012 at 22:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Flanders

    We just began reading out his in my class today. How cool is that?

    May 16, 2012 at 23:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Tim Rigney

    I'll do 'ya one better – they should study something else too – Why did he SURVIVE!? . . .

    May 16, 2012 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • C

      The frontal cortex isnt necessary for basic body functions, and the pole didnt hit any major ventricles (supplies cerebral spinal fluid with nutrient to the brain). It just took out some grey and some white matter. Like when ppl shoot themselves in the head and survive.

      May 17, 2012 at 02:06 | Report abuse |
  41. dotheflippinmath

    I'm just curious about you folks who are complaining about how this article was a useless waste of time: Are any of you NOT Republicans and/or Tea-Party supporters? I kind of have a hunch that answer is a "no" (except for those who couldn't handle the "NOT" part correctly, so, just to be clear, if you are a Republican or Tea Party supporter, you'd answer, "no"). All I can say is that closed-minded and ignorant is no way to live your life. Or, as my mom used to say, "Only the boring are bored."

    May 16, 2012 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. old-doc

    This case has been discussed in detail medical schools at least since the mid 1900s, and probably before that [though I wasn't there before that to know]. This is just someone recycling old well-trodden material with the excuse of a new imaging technique. Not great science. The reporter is obviously phoning it in or out of his knowledge base, saying that this is "not much different from what's seen in ... traumatic brain injuries"...it IS a traumatic brain injury. I guess both the "researchers" and the reporter need to make a living [i.e. publish], and the clever recycling of old stuff is one way to do that...

    May 16, 2012 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. PhilG.

    The guy has a pipe fired through his brain and he's not acting the same?


    Gee,go figure.

    May 16, 2012 at 23:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. JD

    "Over 1 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury every year in the United States...." Really? There are only 313 million people in the US. If true, that means that over one in every 313 people have a traumatic brain injury each year. Please. CNN needs to find some real journalists, not ones that just make stuff up.

    May 17, 2012 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JLS639

      "1.Faul M, Xu L, Wald MM, Coronado VG. Traumatic brain injury in the United States: emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2010."

      Each year, apprx. 1.7 million people in the United States suffer traumatic brain injury.

      Not all are as serious as Phineas Gage and invovle gaping head wounds. Concussions often qualify. Almost half are children under the age of 5.

      May 17, 2012 at 01:15 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I was thinking the same thing.

      May 17, 2012 at 04:05 | Report abuse |
  45. magneticink

    ...this public service announcement is in memory of Vlad the Impaler

    May 17, 2012 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. The Scarecrow

    If I only had a brain!

    May 17, 2012 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Cortanis

    It's amazing that he surived that in the 40s/50s in the first place. Medical tech and care really weren't what they are today and an injury like that should have been something close to immediatly fatal.

    May 17, 2012 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. C

    To those who have expressed interest, this article on CNN doesnt actually talk much about the science or even give us the link to the original study. PLoS One is a free journal, and the like to is below. The main author is Jack Van Horn and the article is called "Mapping Connectivity Damage in the Case of Phineas Gage" in case the link doesnt work.
    Now am going to wait and see how many keyboard warriors will respond to my post and call me names (a lot of angry ppl online)

    May 17, 2012 at 02:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. CNNisunoriginal

    This is something that is taught in any intro psycho course. CNN, when did you get so lazy? Out of all the things happening in the world, this, a girl with an infection, and a murder-suicide are big news?

    May 17, 2012 at 04:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Mark

    I'm puzzled by the statistic that 1 million people a year suffer traumatic brain injury in the United States. There are 4 million people born in the U.S. each year. If these two figures are sustained, that means roughly 1/4 of the U.S. population has brain damage. I find that hard to believe.

    May 17, 2012 at 04:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      Are you missing GOP membership?

      May 17, 2012 at 06:59 | Report abuse |
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